Cricket, connectivity and defence top focus during PM Modi's Maldives visit  

WION New Delhi Jun 06, 2019, 10.38 PM(IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

PM Modi with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Photograph:( Twitter )

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In the last 8 months, since the new government led by President Solih took charge in November 2018, there have been a number of high-level visits. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be leaving for the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Saturday which will be his first foreign visit after the general elections. 

It is after 8 years that an Indian PM will be on a state visit to the Maldives, the last was by Manmohan Singh in 2011. During the visit, PM will address Maldivian Parliament, the Majlis and meet the top leadership. Many Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) are expected to be signed including training of civil servants, customs and white shipping.

While given details of the visit, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said, "The PM's visit is focused on three objectives, firstly it is to maintain contact at the highest level between the close neighbours, to assist the Maldives as a development partner, and to strengthen people to people contact"
 
Defence

Both PM Modi and President Solih will jointly inaugurate two defence related projects -- One is the coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives national defence forces (MNDF) -- at a total cost of $180 crores. The composite training centre was requested by the Maldives to provide a central training facility and "will enhance the capability of MNDF", according to FS Gokhale. The coastal surveillance radar system will help Malé monitor white shipping and preserve its sovereignty in EEZ or exclusive economic zone.

Cricket

The Maldives is keen to have its own cricket team and a cricket stadium and asked for Indian assistance. India in May sent a team of BCCI to the Maldives for the training of Maldivian cricketers. 

India has given cricket kits and is expected to coach Maldivian cricketers. Earlier, India had invited President Solih in April for an IPL match in Bengaluru. India sees it as important "people to people" exercise and has in the past helped countries like Afghanistan.

Connectivity

India is planning to start a ferry service from Kochi to the Maldives which the foreign secretary said will "significantly enhance connectivity". 

India is also working on 14 high impact community projects which involves connectivity within the island, drug rehab centre and the total cost is Rs 50 crore. New Delhi also plans to provide speed boats for students.

Earlier this year, India and Maldives signed a visa facilitation agreement that came to force in March 2018 and New Delhi has pledged budgetary support of $ 200 million, of which $ 50 million has been given in cash and rest $150 in treasury bills. Both are finalising a currency swap agreement. 

A line of credit of $ 800 million has been granted for water supply and sewerage for 36 islands, Addu urban development centre and SME development financing project, among several projects. In fact, India is also supporting Male's climate change efforts with the grants of LED bulbs for the capital.

In the last 8 months, since the new government led by President Solih took charge in November 2018, there have been a number of high-level visits. 

While President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, ForeignMinister Abdulla Shahid & Defence minister Mariya Ahmed Didi all have visited India, PM Modi was in the country for the swearing-in ceremony of Solih and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited the country in March of 2019.

Relationship between the two countries had suffered under the previous Yameen regime who had junked pro-India policy for a pro-china policy.